Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Sorrentino: North making strides



"The Big 12 North division defeated the Big 12 South division in head-to-head, regular-season matchups last year for the first time in nine years. Here's how the matchups have gone in the Big 12 era:

1996: North, 12-61997: North, 11-71998: North, 10-81999: Tied, 9-92000: South, 10-82001: Tied, 9-92002: South, 11-72003: South, 12-62004: South, 15-32005: South, 11-72006: South, 13-52007: North, 10-8

Comparing the Big 12 North football division to the Big 12 South division a few years ago used to be like comparing the NBA Eastern Conference to the Western Conference.

It never really took much thought. The answer was more obvious than a question on one of Jim Harrick's basketball exams at the University of Georgia.

Nowadays, it's different. There has been a shift of power in the last year in the Big 12. Thanks to a recent trend, the following statement next fall won't sound as senseless as it did just two years ago: The Big 12 North is a superior division to the Big 12 South.

Crazy? Thanks to Kansas and Missouri, not so crazy anymore.

Consider that last year was the first time in nine years the Big 12 North won more head-to-head battles against the Big 12 South. The North went 10-8 against the South in 18 regular-season games.

Kansas and Missouri, both 7-1 in 2007, brought the North to a level not seen in the division since 1999, when K-State and Nebraska both were 7-1 in the conference.

There's no reason the Big 12 North's supremacy should last just one year. Looking ahead to 2008, it's not out of the question for the North to trump the South again.

Missouri, which represented the North in the 2007 Big 12 Championship game, will have expectations to get back there. Everyone knows about 2007 Heisman finalist Chase Daniel, but what will make the Tigers a likely preseason Top-10 team is what will return around Daniel: home run threat wide receiver/special teams returner Jeremy Maclin and running/receiving threat Derrick Washington, the tailback. Furthermore, Missouri will return 10 starters on defense.

Kansas could start the year near the Top 10 as well. KU returns Todd Reesing and will surround him with a plethora of weapons, including running backs Jake Sharp and Jocques Crawford, who led all junior-college running backs with 1,935 rushing yards last year. Reesing loses Marcus Henry from the receiving corps, but will return Dezmon Briscoe, Dexton Fields and Kerry Meier. The KU defense is experienced, particularly in the secondary and at linebacker.

Nebraska has to be better than last year, when it went 2-6 in the Big 12 and gave up 37.9 points per game. First-year coach Bo Pelini, who was the defensive coordinator for LSU's championship team last season, should help.

Colorado, after a 4-4 conference season, also should be on the rise. Freshman running back Darrell Scott, one of the top recruits in the nation, should take pressure off quarterback Cody Hawkins. CU won't have to play OU or Texas Tech and drew UT at home.

The shift of power started last season, and it likely won't be fully recognized until the North wins the Big 12 championship, something it hasn't done in five years. It's up to these four teams to make it happen.


Jonathan Allison 11 years, 7 months ago

JBurtin,I agree that Texas A&M could come in pretty strong in 2 or 3 years. But I don't see them doing any damage this year. They were awful in Franchione's system, now they're bringing in a pro-style offense. Steven McGee is gonna have to learn a new offense and develop as a passer. Jorvorskie Lane was their workhouse, now he's gonna be a lead blocker. They're gonna need new players for their new system. I hope they're good. I certainly hope Coach Sherman does better bring the pro-game to College Station than Coach Callahan did at Nebraska.

FlaHawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Interesting to note that the North was supreme the first couple of years.One could extrapolate that the Big XII was better for the Texas schools in FB than it was for the BIG 8 on an inter-divisional level.Overall, the merger has improved the Big 8 schools as they have to spend the money and recruit Texas hard to compete now in the Big XII!

sevenyearhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Texas ain't so big anymore ...VY is long gone!

11 years, 7 months ago

justanotherfan - while I agree with most of your post, I contend KU and MU did not "dodge" tu last year. The Jayhawks and the Tigers would both have beaten the Teasips had they played. Those games this coming season should be good ones.

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 7 months ago

I kinda have a hard time saying that KSU won't be better than Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. I think there 5th best in the North, but could be as high as 8th in the conference.In my mind there's a big disparity between OU, UT, and TTU and the rest of the South. The North seems like a tighter race.

justanotherfan 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm not contending that UT would have definitely beaten either KU or MU last year. What I am contending is that the best teams in the two divisions didn't face off against each other, so its tough to say how much the gap has closed. As for KSU, they backed out of a HOME game with FRESNO STATE. That is not the sign of a team that will be competitive in the Big XII. If you can't beat the third or fourth best team in the WAC, how are you going to compete in a BCS league?CU and NU are both down. While once upon a time they were powerful, last year's thrashing is proof enough that NU isn't what they used to be. They almost lost to BALL STATE!?! Colorado wasn't as far down as NU, and they have a distinct home field advantage with the altitude, but they aren't anywhere close to being nationally competitive. I don't think anyone is trumpeting the strength of Iowa State right now. The North is basically a two team race. The South is basically a three team race. Everyone else is just shooting for six victories and a bowl bid.

JBurtin 11 years, 7 months ago

plasticJHawkSounds like you're talking from a very recent perspective.Oklahoma State has been pretty close to TTU in the last few years. I'd say they have a pretty tight race for that third best spot in the South.A&M is in a situation similar to Nebraska. They always recruit well, and have an incredible homefield advantage. If their new coach works out they could easily jump TTU and OKSt to go toe to toe with OU and TU.Things probably aren't going to change much this year, but in the next few years there could very easily be some radical shifting in the South. I would consider their race to be just as tight (if not tighter) than the North.

justanotherfan 11 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure the North was "superior" to the South last year. I think everyone would agree that KU dodged both of the "superior" South teams and that MU dodged one of them. The upsets in conference fell the North's way (CU over OU, KSU over UT) rather than the South's (with something like a OSU over KU or a TT over MU). Even with KU and MU losing only 1 game to south opponents while OU and UT lost two, the South was only one win away from a split. Simply put, NU, KSU, CU and ISU are not very good. KSU and ISU will probably be among the bottom three teams in the league (along with Baylor). NU and CU are still probably a year or two away from being competitive. There are really only two legitimately good teams in the North. In the South, there are three (OU, UT and TT). When the Big XII started, NU was a national powerhouse, OU and UT were on hard times, and KSU was enjoying their run. Everyone knew that OU and UT weren't going to stay down forever with their resources. Everyone feared that KSU would falter if/when Snyder left. Hence the power shift.

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